Written by Todd Waters, Agricultural Technician Supervisor
On Saturday April 24 the Entomology Department joined AGNR and UME to participate in UMD Day at the Maryland State Fair. Our Insect Zoo guru, Todd Waters, organized a group of wonderful volunteers to run the tables and Dr. Michael Raupp carried a forward detachment of chitinous friends for an early morning interview on Fox45 Baltimore to advertise the event. We were provided tables in the 4-H and Home Arts Building and arrived before noon with a car full of terraria and arthropods. Before we could even set the first enclosure on the table, we were surrounded by a swarm of curious onlookers squirming in shock and fluttering with excitement. They were but moths, and our exhibit the finest lamp. Dr. Leslie Pick, covered in stick bugs, and Dr. Raupp, with a large tarantula in his hands, flourishingly convinced terrified spectators to hold Malaysian Giant Leaf Bugs, and our illustrious Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula “Rosie,” all of them becoming instant fans.
Visitors marveled at our historical collections from Papua New Guinea, especially at the size of Phasmids, as well as the beauty of the Lepidopterans on display. Hundreds of people were able to observe and learn about wolf spiders, black widows, and even the brown recluse by picking up living specimens in small enclosures. Visitors learned the difference between centipedes and millipedes, and about the incredible diversity of insects. Their eyes sparkled with curiosity, as though a new dimension of the world had just become visible to them. Some people were so hooked that they became extension agents, like the group of teenagers who couldn’t get enough of the Tailless Whip Scorpion, passing the arthropods to curious newcomers and explaining everything they knew about the animal. The event was a huge outreach success! At the end of the day, our poor bugs needed a rest from all the exercise. I think all of us felt enriched by the experience, and hopeful all of our visitors throughout the day felt the same.
Event volunteers: Leslie Pick, Paula Shrewsbury, Mike Raupp, Darsy Smith, Maddie Potter, Lindsay Barranco, Kelsey McGurrin, Max Ferlauto and Rachel Kuipers, led by Todd Waters.